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Thursday, 18 April 2024

Flight To France

Columns

The Lord’s wife seeks refuge in a European  “Wilderness”

In March 37 AD, General Atiku, Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar died after 23 years in office. He was succeeded by his nephew and adoptive heir Gaius Caligula. 

Caligula had forged a fraternal bond with Herod Agrippa, a grandson of Herod the Great, whilst hitherto cash-strapped Agrippa worked at Emperor Tiberius’ court in some capacity. It was on the basis of this mutual affinity that Caligula installed Agrippa as King of the Middle East territories his uncle Phillip the Tetrarch, who passed on in AD 34, had ruled over.

In 39 AD, Agrippa’s regal tentacles spread even wider when he was given the Herod Antipas domains after he politically poisoned the latter to Caligula. Thus it was that Agrippa became Rome’s client King of the whole of Palestine minus Judea. Meanwhile, the tiny territory of Chalcis in Syria was given to Agrippa’s brother Herod, best known to history as Herod of Chalcis, on the pleadings of Agrippa. 

It so happened, General, that during the rather short, six-year reign of Agrippa, four Jewish High Priests took turns in office, all appointed by he himself as per authority vested in him by the Emperor. One particular appointment, of a Boethusian High Priest at the expense of the incumbent Mathias Ben Ananus (the apostle Matthew), rankled with radical Jews.

Mathias was replaced in 43 AD, when he was scarcely one year in office. Given that the Boethusians held the Davidic dynasty in contempt, it goes without saying that the apostolate band were irate. In the event, Simon Peter and James the son of Zebedee with typical Zealot radicalism  conveniently saw common cause with Simon Zelotes and set about plotting the assassination of Agrippa. 

Somehow, General, the Herod establishment got wind of the plot and Herod of Chalcis had James executed and Simon Peter thrown into the slammer pending his own turn at the scaffold.  Simon Zelotes and Theudas Barabbas were quick to hit back. First, Simon used his guile and connections to have Peter spirited out of prison, whereupon Peter sought refuge in Rome.

Simon Zelotes is the “Angel of the Lord” spoken of in the relevant passage (ACTS 12:7) as  that was his emeritus title as one of the Essene top brass. Second, Simon Zelotes had Agrippa assassinated by way of snake poison. Although Simon Zelotes got away with this intrigue, Barabbas, General, was not so lucky: as he made his getaway across the Jordan River and bogged down by age-related lethargy, he was seized and summarily executed by decapitation on the orders of Herod of Chalcis.  

Simon Zelotes set up a new base in Cyprus, leaving his step-daughter Mary Magdalene in the lurch in Judea. What would be her fate, General, now that she was associated with a fugitive from justice?

SCHISMS IN THE CHRISTIAN MOVEMENT

The accession and rather untimely demise of King Agrippa, General Atiku,  had quite significant ramifications on the nascent Christian movement. Of particular import was the relocation of the Qumran community to Damascus in Syria. Indeed, the Dead Sea Scrolls’ Damascus Document makes a point of highlighting “the New Covenant in the Land of Damascus”, which now the Essenes propagandised as the place where the awaited Jewish Messiah would appear and not in Jerusalem as the Old Testament prophets had foretold.   

The change of scene, General, was spearheaded by James the Just, the immediate younger brother of Jesus and the incumbent leader of the Christian movement. It was necessitated  by the fear that the perpetually impecunious Agrippa (whilst he was alive, that is), who at some stage had been declared bankrupt, might eventually deplete the Qumran kitty (a portion of which the Herods were entitled to), of which James was the custodian following the ignominious death of Judas Iscariot.

James had also served notice that the Herods would  have no part to play in a sovereign Israel, that the conduct of its affairs would be the preserve solely of the Davidic dynasty, which he now headed. As if to underscore this apartness,  James even went on to reprise the Star &  Sceptre political tag team with Theudas Barabbas (before his assassination), which harked back to a similar partnership of yesteryears between his father Joseph and the same Barabbas, who was still revered as the iconic Zealot revolutionary.  

The likes of Simon Peter (who had returned from Rome a free man since his alleged crime had lapsed with the death of King Agrippa as was the practice those days),  however, set up their base at Antioch in Syria, which suggests that there was a bit of dissonance between James and Peter at the time. Peter was reinforced by Paul and the latter’s personal doctor Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The Peter faction was also anti-Herod but in its formative stage it touted Peter as the successor to Jesus at the expense of  James. 

In sum, General, there was a three-way split in the Christian movement after Jesus went into obscurity. This was the James party at Damascus, the Peter party at Antioch, and the Simon Zelotes party in Cyprus. It was the Peter party that with the benefit of hindsight stole the thunder in that it was at Antioch that members of The Way began to call themselves Christians. This was in AD 44. 

MARY MAGDALENE IN FRANCE

Meanwhile, General Atiku, Mary Magdalene was in a very precarious position. At the time, she was already pregnant with Jesus’ third child, having conceived in December AD 43.  It is not clear though whether she too had incurred the wrath of the Herods in view of what her step- father Simon Zelotes had done to King Agrippa, but taking precautions, she sought the protection  of Agrippa’s eldest son, Agrippa II. Agrippa II was only 17 years at the time and was based in Rome under the auspices of Claudius, who had become Roman Emperor in AD 41.

A former student of the Apostle Paul, Agrippa II was well disposed toward the Jesus family and so he readily acquiesced to Mary’s entreaty, whereupon he arranged for her safe passage to the famed Herodian estate in Gaul, France, in collaboration with his other brother Aristobulus. It was in Gaul that the brothers Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas had by turns been banished by the Roman Emperor after their ouster in AD 6 and 39 respectively .  

Mary Magdalene, General,  was not all alone on the ship that conducted her to France. She was accompanied by her step-father Simon Zelotes; her mother Helena-Salome; the apostle Philip; the three sisters of Jesus; the wife of James the Just; and Trophimus, who is mentioned in ACTS 20:4; ACTS 21:29; and 2 TIMOTHY 4:20. In his book The Life of Mary Magdalene, Archbishop Rabanus Maurus partly documents the voyage thus: “And favoured by an easterly wind they travelled on across the Sea between Europe and Africa, leaving the city of Rome and all the land of Italy to the right. Then, happily changing course to the right, they came to the city of Marseilles in the Gaulish province of Vienne.” Upon arrival in France, Mary Magdalene had the privillege of being welcomed by the Queen of Marseilles. Once in 

France, Simon Zelotes, who  became known there as Lazarus the Great One, wasted no time in setting up a mission in Provence in south eastern France.

MARY MAGDALENE Vs ROME

Unbeknownst to much of Christendom, including the Christian clergy itself, General, the fate of Mary Magdalene is cryptically documented in the Book of Revelation! It is unfortunate that Revelation is placed last in the New Testament corpus when by rights it should have come immediately  after the Book of Acts and not after the  21 epistles in between since it is actually a continuation of the Jesus story. Although it is called the Revelation of Saint John, that is a misnomer.

It is a revelation by Jesus Christ himself, who we now know was very much in existence and in circulation more than fifty years after his sham crucifixion. That is exactly what REVELATION 1:1 states, although Christians have naively taken this to be no more than  figurative language. It was Jesus in his physical, blood-and-flesh  form who related much of the contents of Revelation to the apostle John, the literal author of the book. Jesus dictated the account; John  simply was the scribe. 

The relegation of Revelation (literally “The Unveiling”, the true meaning of the Greek world apocalypse from which the term “Revelation” is translated) to the very extremity of the biblical canon, General,  was contrived by Roman Emperor Constantine as the teachings of the Roman Church were founded, primarily, on the writings of Simon Peter and the apostle Paul. Says authoritative historian Laurence Gardner in his book The Magdalene Legacy:  The Jesus and Mary Bloodline Conspiracy: “At first glance it appears baffling that The Revelation was included in the New Testament at all, since it follows the post-Resurrection lives of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and their offspring through a balance of the 1st century.

However, the inclusion of The Revelation proved to be a remarkable strategy in that its very esoteric nature enabled Rome to turn it to considerable advantage by misrepresenting its text from the pulpits; this, of course, was at a time when the general populace did not have Bibles to read for themselves.” Gardner goes on to say, “The Church has done its best to put people off this book ever since by portraying it as a sinister work of foreboding and doom. By way of propaganda from the 1662 Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, even the very word apocalypse has become emblematic of disaster.”

REVELATION CHAPTER 12, General,  is particularly pertinent with regard to the saga of Mary Magdalene. It talks about a pregnant woman  “clothed  with the sun” and with a “wreath of 12 stars on her head” (Verses 1 and 2).  This woman is being pursued and tormented by a  “great fiery-red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads seven diadems” (Verse 3). The dragon’s aim is to “devour her child when it is born” (Verse 4). The woman “fled into the wilderness, there where she has a place made ready  by God” (Verse 6).

Despite her trials and tribulations, the woman at long last “brought forth a son, a male, who is about to be shepherding all the nations with an iron club. And her child is snatched away to God and to His throne” (Verse 5). The dragon, though, will never relent: it  is “angry with the woman, and came away to do battle with the rest of her seed, who are keeping the precepts of God and who have the testimony of Jesus” (Verse 17).

As we  have reiterated time and again,  General, much of the New Testament was written  in a coded language with a view to keeping the Romans in the dark. Thus in the Book of Revelation, Mary Magdalene is simply referred to as “the woman” and Rome as “the dragon” or “the serpent”.  History documents that the Romans did display a reddish dragon on their imperial banner.  Moreover, Rome itself was known as the City of the Seven Kings in that this was the total number of Roman emperors before the empire became a Republic in 509 BC.

The woman is of royal pedigree because she is “clothed with the sun”,  an  age-old symbol of both royalty and divinity. The 12 stars on her head obviously refers to the 12 tribes of Israel, for whom she was the de facto queen being the wife of Jesus,  the Davidic King, and the wreath on her head denotes the fact of the nation of Israel’s enduring  subjugation to the Roman yoke.    The “wilderness” in this context is France, where Mary Magdalene as related above sought refuge with the assistance of Agrippa II.   

The pursued woman did give birth to a male child, which Mary Magdalene did as we shall relate in the next instalment. As a youngster, the child himself met no harm, but his relations, the broader Jesus family and their scions,  who became known as the Desposyni or the Sangreal, were continuously harassed  by Roman emperors, with some of them put to death, a detail we shall go into at the appropriate stage. 

Curiously, General, the Revelation passage indicates that the woman was transported to safety on “two wings of a large vulture”. This suggests an aircraft, and a hideous, military-type for that matter,   and not a ship as official history documents. This is not exactly far-fetched considering that the Anunnaki, who flew in aerial vehicles, have been ruling Earth from behind the scenes despite their official departure in the 6th  century BC. If Mary Magdalene had been earmarked as the progenitor of the planet’s blue blood, which she indeed was, then the Anunnaki had cause to ferry her to France in an aeroplane to make doubly sure she got to France in  one piece. It may explain, General, why upon her arrival in France she was welcomed by no less a figure than the Queen of Marseilles herself.  

NEXT WEEK: THE “QUEEN” IS IMMORTALISED

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GONE FISHING

28th March 2023

In recent years, using personal devices in working environments has become so commonplace it now has its own acronym, BOYD (Bring Your Own Device).  But as employees skip between corporate tools and personal applications on their own devices, their actions introduce a number of possible risks that should be managed and mitigated with careful consideration.  Consider these examples:

Si-lwli, a small family-run business in Wales, is arguably as niche a company as you could find, producing talking toys used to promote the Welsh language. Their potential market is small, with only some 300,000 Welsh language speakers in the world and in reality the business is really more of a hobby for the husband-and-wife team, who both still have day jobs.  Yet, despite still managing to be successful in terms of sales, the business is now fighting for survival after recently falling prey to cybercriminals. Emails between Si-Iwli and their Chinese suppliers were intercepted by hackers who altered the banking details in the correspondence, causing Si-Iwli to hand over £18,000 (around P ¼ m) to the thieves. That might not sound much to a large enterprise, but to a small or medium business it can be devastating.

Another recent SMB hacking story which appeared in the Wall Street Journal concerned Innovative Higher Ed Consulting (IHED) Inc, a small New York start-up with a handful of employees. IHED didn’t even have a website, but fraudsters were able to run stolen credit card numbers through the company’s payment system and reverse the charges to the tune of $27,000, around the same loss faced by Si-Iwli.  As the WSJ put it, the hackers completely destroyed the company, forcing its owners to fold.

And in May 2019, the city of Baltimore’s computer system was hit by a ransomware attack, with hackers using a variant called RobinHood. The hack, which has lasted more than a month, paralysed the computer system for city employees, with the hackers demanding a payment in Bitcoin to give access back to the city.

Of course, hackers target governments or business giants  but small and medium businesses are certainly not immune. In fact, 67% of SMBs reported that they had experienced a cyber attack across a period of 12 months, according to a 2018 survey carried out by security research firm Ponemon Institute. Additionally, Verizon issued a report in May 2019 that small businesses accounted for 43% of its reported data breaches.  Once seen as less vulnerable than PCs, smartphone attacks are on the rise, with movements like the Dark Caracal spyware campaign underlining the allure of mobile devices to hackers. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission released a statement calling for greater education on mobile security, coming at a time when around 42% of all Android devices are believed to not carry the latest security updates.

This is an era when employees increasingly use their smartphones for work-related purposes so is your business doing enough to protect against data breaches on their employees’ phones? The SME Cyber Crime Survey 2018 carried out for risk management specialists AON showed that more than 80% of small businesses did not view this as a threat yet if as shown, 67% of SMBs were said to have been victims of hacking, either the stats are wrong or business owners are underestimating their vulnerability.  A 2019 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the latter, stating that the majority of global businesses are unprepared for cyber attacks.

Consider that a workstation no longer means a desk in an office: It can be a phone in the back of a taxi or Uber; a laptop in a coffee shop, or a tablet in an airport lounge.  Wherever the device is used, employees can potentially install applications that could be harmful to your business, even from something as seemingly insignificant as clicking on an accidental download or opening a link on a phishing email.  Out of the physical workplace, your employees’ activities might not have the same protections as they would on a company-monitored PC.

Yet many businesses not only encourage their employees to work remotely, but assume working from coffee shops, bookstores, and airports can boost employees’ productivity.  Unfortunately, many remote hot spots do not provide secure Wi-Fi so if your employee is accessing their work account on unsecured public Wi-Fi,  sensitive business data could be at risk. Furthermore, even if your employee uses a company smartphone or has access to company data through a personal mobile device, there is always a chance data could be in jeopardy with a lost or stolen device, even information as basic as clients’ addresses and phone numbers.

BOYDs are also at risk from malware designed to harm and infect the host system, transmittable to smartphones when downloading malicious third-party apps.  Then there is ransomware, a type of malware used by hackers to specifically take control of a system’s data, blocking access or threatening to release sensitive information unless a ransom is paid such as the one which affected Baltimore.  Ransomware attacks are on the increase,  predicted to occur every 14 seconds, potentially costing billions of dollars per year.

Lastly there is phishing – the cyber equivalent of the metaphorical fishing exercise –  whereby  cybercriminals attempt to obtain sensitive data –usernames, passwords, credit card details –usually through a phoney email designed to look legitimate which directs the user to a fraudulent website or requests the data be emailed back directly. Most of us like to think we could recognize a phishing email when we see it, but these emails have become more sophisticated and can come through other forms of communication such as messaging apps.

Bottom line is to be aware of the potential problems with BOYDs and if in doubt,  consult your IT security consultants.  You can’t put the own-device genie back in the bottle but you can make data protection one of your three wishes!

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“I Propose to Diana Tonight”

28th March 2023

About five days before Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed landed in Paris, General Atiku, a certain Edward Williams was taking a walk in a woods in the Welsh town of Mountain Ash. Williams, then 73, was a psychic of some renown. He had in the past foretold assassination attempts on US President Ronald Reagan, which occurred on March 30, 1981, and Pope John Paul II, which came to pass on May 13, 1981.

As he trudged the woods, Williams  had a sudden premonition that pointed to Diana’s imminent fate as per Christopher Andersen’s book The Day Diana Died. “When the vision struck me, it was as if everything around me was obscured and replaced by shadowy figures,” Williams was later to reminisce. “In the middle was the face of Princess Diana. Her expression was sad and full of pathos. She was wearing what looked like a floral dress with a short dark cardigan. But it was vague. I went cold with fear and knew it was a sign that she was in danger.”

Williams hastily beat a retreat to his home, which he shared with his wife Mary, and related to her his presentiment, trembling like an aspen leaf as he did so. “I have never seen him so upset,” Mary recounted. “He felt he was given a sign and when he came back from his walk he was deeply shaken.”

The following day, Williams frantically sauntered into a police station to inform the police of his premonition. The officer who attended to him would have dismissed him as no more than a crackpot but he treated him seriously in view of the accuracy of his past predictions. He  took a statement and immediately passed it on to the Special Branch Investigative  Unit.

The report read as follows:

“On 27 August, at 14:12 hrs, a man by the name of Edward Williams came to Mountain Ash police station. He said he was a psychic and predicted that Princess Diana was going to die. In previous years, he has predicted that the Pope and Ronald Reagan were going to be the victims of assassination attempts. On both occasions he was proved to be correct. Mr Williams appeared to be quite normal.”

Williams, General, was spot-on as usual: four days later, the princess was no more.

Meanwhile, General,  even as Dodi and Diana were making their way to the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel in central Paris, British newspapers were awash with headlines that suggested Diana was kind of deranged. Writes Andrew Morton in Diana in Pursuit of Love: “In The Independent Diana was described as ‘a woman with fundamentally nothing to say about anything’. She was ‘suffering from a form of arrested development’. ‘Isn’t it time she started using her head?’ asked The Mail on Sunday. The Sunday Mirror printed a special supplement entitled ‘A Story of Love’; The News of the World claimed that William had demanded that Diana should split from Dodi: ‘William can’t help it, he just doesn’t like the man.’ William was reportedly ‘horrified’ and ‘doesn’t think Mr Fayed is good for his mother’ – or was that just the press projecting their own prejudices? The upmarket Sunday Times newspaper, which had first serialised my biography of the princess, now put her in the psychiatrist’s chair for daring to be wooed by a Muslim. The pop-psychologist Oliver James put Diana ‘On the Couch’, asking why she was so ‘depressed’ and desperate for love. Other tabloids piled in with dire prognostications – about Prince Philip’s hostility to the relationship, Diana’s prospect of exile, and the social ostracism she would face if she married Dodi.”

DIANA AND DODI AT THE RITZ

Before Diana and Dodi departed the Villa Windsor sometime after 16 hrs, General, one of Dodi’s bodyguards Trevor Rees-Jones furtively asked Diana as to what the programme for the evening was. This Trevor did out of sheer desperation as Dodi had ceased and desisted from telling members of his security detail, let alone anyone else for that matter, what his onward destination was for fear that that piece of information would be passed on to the paparazzi. Diana kindly obliged Trevor though her response was terse and scarcely revealing. “Well, eventually we will be going out to a restaurant”, that was all Diana said. Without advance knowledge of exactly what restaurant that was, Trevor and his colleagues’ hands were tied: they could not do a recce on it as was standard practice for the security team of a VIP principal.  Dodi certainly, General, was being recklessly by throwing such caution to the winds.

At about 16:30, Diana and Dodi drew up at the Ritz Hotel, where they were received by acting hotel manager Claude Roulet.  The front entrance of the hotel was already crawling with paparazzi, as a result of which the couple took the precaution of using the rear entrance, where hopefully they would make their entry unperturbed and unmolested. The first thing they did when they were ensconced in the now $10,000 a night Imperial Suite was to spend some time on their mobiles and set about touching base with friends, relations, and associates.  Diana called at least two people, her clairvoyant friend Rita Rogers and her favourite journalist Richard Kay of The Daily Mail.

Rita, General,  was alarmed that Diana had proceeded to venture to Paris notwithstanding the warning she had given Dodi and herself in relation to what she had seen of him  in the crystal ball when the couple had consulted her. When quizzed as to what the hell she indeed was doing in Paris at that juncture, Diana replied that she and Dodi had simply come to do some shopping, which though partially true was not the material reason they were there. “But Diana, remember what I told Dodi,” Rita said somewhat reprovingly. Diana a bit apprehensively replied, “Yes I remember. I will be careful. I promise.” Well,  she did not live up to her promise as we shall soon unpack General.

As for Richard Kay, Diana made known to him that, “I have decided I am going to radically change my life. I am going to complete my obligations to charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause, but in November I want to completely withdraw from formal public life.”

Once she was done with her round of calls, Diana went down to the hair saloon by the hotel swimming pool to have her hair washed and blow-dried ahead of the scheduled evening dinner.

THE “TELL ME YES” RING IS DELIVERED

Since the main object of their Paris trip was to pick up the “Tell Me Yes” engagement ring  Dodi had ordered in Monte Carlo a week earlier, Dodi decided to check on Repossi Jewellery, which was right within the Ritz prencincts, known as the Place Vendome.  It could have taken less than a minute for Dodi to get to the store on foot but he decided to use a car to outsmart the paparazzi invasion. He was driven there by Trevor Rees-Jones, with Alexander Kez Wingfield and Claude Roulet following on foot, though he entered the shop alone.

The Repossi store had closed for the holiday season but Alberto Repossi, accompanied by his wife and brother-in-law,  had decided to travel all the way from his home in Monaco  and momentarily open it for the sake of the potentially highly lucrative  Dodi transaction.  Alberto, however, disappointed Dodi as the ring he had chosen was not the one  he produced. The one he showed Dodi was pricier and perhaps more exquisite but Dodi  was adamant that he wanted the exact one he had ordered as that was what Diana herself had picked. It was a ploy  on the part of Repossi to make a real killing on the sale, his excuse to that effect being that Diana deserved a ring tha was well worthy of her social pedigree.  With Dodi having expressed disaffection, Repossi rendered his apologies and assured Dodi he would make the right ring available shortly, whereupon Dodi repaired back to the hotel to await its delivery. But Dodi  did insist nonetheless that the pricier ring be delivered too in case it appealed to Diana anyway.

Repossi delivered the two rings an hour later. They were collected by Roulet. On inspecting them, Dodi chose the very one he had seen in Monte Carlo, apparently at the insistence of Diana.  There is a possibility that Diana, who was very much aware of her public image and was not comfortable with ostentatious displays of wealth, may have deliberately shown an interest in a less expensive engagement ring. It  may have been a purely romantic as opposed to a prestigious  choice for her.

The value of the ring, which was found on a wardrobe shelf in Dodi’s apartment after the crash,  has been estimated to be between $20,000 and $250,000 as Repossi has always refused to be drawn into revealing how much Dodi paid for it. The sum, which enjoyed a 25 percent discount, was in truth paid for not by Dodi himself but by his father as was the usual practice.

Dodi was also shown Repossi’s sketches for a bracelet, a watch, and earrings which he proposed to create if Diana approved of them.

DIANA AND DODI GUSH OVER IMMINENT NUPTIALS

At about 7 pm,  Dodi and Diana left the Ritz and headed for Dodi’s apartment at a place known as the Arc de Trompe. They went there to properly tog themselves out for the scheduled evening dinner. They spent two hours at the luxurious apartment. As usual, the ubiquitous paparazzi were patiently waiting for them there.

As they lingered in the apartment, Dodi beckoned over to his butler Rene Delorm  and showed him  the engagement ring. “Dodi came into my kitchen,” Delorm relates. “He looked into the hallway to check that Diana couldn’t hear and reached into his pocket and pulled out the box … He said, ‘Rene, I’m going to propose to the princess tonight. Make sure that we have champagne on ice when we come back from dinner’.” Rene described the ring as “a spectacular diamond encrusted ring, a massive emerald surrounded by a cluster of diamonds, set on a yellow and white gold band sitting in a small light-grey velvet box”.

Just before 9 pm, Dodi called the brother of his step-father, Hassan Yassen, who also was staying at the Ritz  that night, and told him that he hoped to get married to Diana by the end of the year.

Later that same evening, both Dodi and Diana would talk to Mohamed Al Fayed, Dodi’s dad, and make known to him their pre-nuptial intentions. “They called me and said we’re coming back  (to London) on Sunday (August 31) and on Monday (September 1) they are

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RAMADAN – The Blessed Month of Fasting

28th March 2023

Ramadan is the fasting month for Muslims, where over one billion Muslims throughout the world fast from dawn to sunset, and pray additional prayers at night. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to Allah, and self-control. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. As you read this Muslims the world over have already begun fasting as the month of Ramadan has commenced (depending on the sighting of the new moon).

‘The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was revealed as guidance for people, in it are clear signs of guidance and Criterion, therefore whoever of you who witnesses this month, it is obligatory on him to fast it. But whoever is ill or traveling let him fast the same number of other days, God desires ease for you and not hardship, and He desires that you complete the ordained period and glorify God for His guidance to you, that you may be grateful”. Holy Qur’an  (2 : 185)

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars upon which the structure of Islam is built. The other four are: the declaration of one’s belief in Allah’s oneness and in the message of Muhammad (PBUH); regular attendance to prayer; payment of zakaat (obligatory charity); and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

As explained in an earlier article, fasting includes total abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, refraining from obscenity, avoiding getting into arguments and including abstaining from marital relations, from sunrise to sunset. While fasting may appear to some as difficult Muslims see it as an opportunity to get closer to their Lord, a chance to develop spiritually and at the same time the act of fasting builds character, discipline and self-restraint.

Just as our cars require servicing at regular intervals, so do Muslims consider Ramadan as a month in which the body and spirit undergoes as it were a ‘full service’. This ‘service’ includes heightened spiritual awareness both the mental and physical aspects and also the body undergoing a process of detoxification and some of the organs get to ‘rest’ through fasting.

Because of the intensive devotional activity fasting, Ramadan has a particularly high importance, derived from its very personal nature as an act of worship but there is nothing to stop anyone from privately violating Allah’s commandment of fasting if one chooses to do so by claiming to be fasting yet eating on the sly. This means that although fasting is obligatory, its observance is purely voluntary. If a person claims to be a Muslim, he is expected to fast in Ramadan.

 

The reward Allah gives for proper fasting is very generous. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) quotes Allah as saying: “All actions done by a human being are his own except fasting, which belongs to Me and I will reward it accordingly.” We are also told by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that the reward for proper fasting is admittance into heaven.

Fasting earns great reward when it is done in a ‘proper’ manner. This is because every Muslim is required to make his worship perfect. For example perfection of fasting can be achieved through restraint of one’s feelings and emotions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that when fasting, a person should not allow himself to be drawn into a quarrel or a slanging match. He teaches us: “On a day of fasting, let no one of you indulge in any obscenity, or enter into a slanging match. Should someone abuse or fight him, let him respond by saying: ‘I am fasting!’”

This high standard of self-restraint fits in well with fasting, which is considered as an act of self-discipline. Islam requires us to couple patience with voluntary abstention from indulgence in our physical desires. The purpose of fasting helps man to attain a high degree of sublimity, discipline and self-restraint. In other words, this standard CAN BE achieved by every Muslim who knows the purpose of fasting and strives to fulfill it.

Fasting has another special aspect. It makes all people share in the feelings of hunger and thirst. In normal circumstances, people with decent income may go from one year’s end to another without experiencing the pangs of hunger which a poor person may feel every day of his life. Such an experience helps to draw the rich one’s conscience nearer to needs of the poor. A Muslim is encouraged to be more charitable and learns to give generously for a good cause.

Fasting also has a universal or communal aspect to it. As Muslims throughout the world share in this blessed act of worship, their sense of unity is enhanced by the fact that every Muslim individual joins willingly in the fulfillment of this divine commandment. This is a unity of action and purpose, since they all fast in order to be better human beings. As a person restrains himself from the things he desires most, in the hope that he will earn Allah’s pleasure, self-discipline and sacrifice become part of his nature.

The month of Ramadan can aptly be described as a “season of worship.” Fasting is the main aspect of worship in this month, because people are more attentive to their prayers, read the Qur’an more frequently and also strive to improve on their inner and outer character. Thus, their devotion is more complete and they feel much happier in Ramadan because they feel themselves to be closer to their Creator.

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